By Melissa Riddle Chalos
“There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.” – Paul Baloche.
There’s a certain blanket of wisdom that, if you seek it, comes over time. It wraps around that place in your life where you’re settled in, a place where you’re surrounded by good friends and family and have nothing left to prove. A place where you know who you are, you know your purpose, and you’re content to leave the details up to God.
“If you do something long enough you uncover life lessons along the way,” Paul Baloche says. “You aspire to be faithful to God’s calling in your life, pressing through even when you fall short. And when you hit a certain age, as you grow in your faith, you recognize the potential and the burden of being a leader, realizing ‘I’ve got to step up and be more intentional toward the people God has put in my life.’ And your prayer becomes,‘Lord, give me grace to finish well.’”
After 25 years of marriage, 23 years leading worship at Community Christian Fellowship in Lindale, TX, 12 albums recorded with the same label, and hundreds of teaching resources provided free for church leaders (via his web site leadworship.com), one might think Paul Baloche had already qualified for a great finish.
But for this modern hymn writer, mentor and teacher who once aspired to be a priest, ministry is not a sprint, but a marathon, a long series of obedient steps in the same direction. A path where every aspect of life is forged in fires of passion for Jesus and His Church, and the result is almost always an honest prayer for the Church to sing.
All this is at the heart of The Same Love, an organic collection of worship songs from the worship leader best known for such modern classics as “Above All,” “Open the Eyes of My Heart” and “Your Name.” The Same Love mirrors Paul’s love for the Church and gives new expression to the complete faithfulness and overwhelming mercy of a gracious God.
“One of the reasons I love the process to this day is that it’s a bit of a frontier, a mystery,” Paul says of the creative process behind The Same Love. “You can’t put your finger on it. Nobody can. It has a sense of adventure, a Lewis & Clark kind of thing. All explorers, overtime, are trying to go places they’ve never been.
Writing for worship is a lot like that. You’re trying to go places you’ve never been, deeper into ancient Biblical truths, stirring up your modern soul, if you will. You’re testing the tension and the harmony of several things, combining that with what’s going on musically at the moment… And you end up with all these different elements — harmony, chords, lyrics, melody, vibe — and out comes something new.”
Co-produced with longtime collaborators Ben Gowell and Michael Rossback, The Same Love continues to walk a modern edge musically, while delivering unforgettably rich lyrics composed in the context of community.
“From project to project, I try to wipe the slate clean, to consider what’s happening right now, in my church, in my own soul, in the church at large and to ask ‘What do I sense in the hearts of the next generation, how do they perceive God, the church, fellowship and community?”
Grammy Award-winning engineer Chris Lord-Alge (U2/Switchfoot) mixes the title track and first single of the project, co-written by Paul and Michael Rossback. This is the touchstone for the entire collection.
“God is not this impersonal force,” Paul says. “The truth is that from creation to the crucifixion, God has been calling us – by name. He’s giving us a challenge, calling us to the cross, asking, ‘Are you ready to give up your way of doing things? Come as you are, pick up your cross daily and I will transform your life.’”
The four songs that follow — the anthemic, Coldplay-esque “We Are Saved” (co-written with Jason Ingram and Ben Fielding), bluegrass tinged “King of Heaven,” “All Because of the Cross” (a modern spin on “Nothing But the Blood”) and “Your Blood Ran Down” — follow a path often resisted, even in worship. “There are a lot of songs about the Cross on this record. People are almost apologetic about it, and yet I feel challenged not to shrink from it. Our tendency is to make our language inclusive and seeker friendly. And I get that, but we also need songs that point to the truth of the new covenant.”
“Look Upon the Lord,” co-written with Kari Jobe and Jason Ingram, began as a time of worship, an effort to linger and focus on Jesus and His sacrifice. “We felt such a strong presence from God as we were writing it that we decided to record the song around our original demo, keeping Kari’s worshipful vocal and Jason’s keyboard part.”
“My Hope,” featuring Kathryn Scott and co-written with Ed Kerr, with whom Paul has written over 100 songs, gives voice to the spoken and unspoken prayers of people in times of need. “Life is hard, people are looking for hope, and there’s not much to be found outside of the hope we have in Christ,” Paul says. “My prayer is that this song will help others express to God what they really feel and point them to His promises.”
In each and every one of these church-tested songs, perhaps even more intentionally than ever before, Paul Baloche continues to draw from deep roots of devotion and ministry to feed the fire in his spirit. To create songs in community with like minded worship artists who understand the hearts and prayers of those they serve, the people in the pew… and those who are still seeking.
“I can’t deny what I’ve seen and experienced in the presence of God,” Paul says. “I can’t deny that I’ve witnessed His goodness and faithfulness over and over again. God is alive. The same God who created the world calls us by name.”
“When I meet people who are full of the Spirit — despite their present circumstances, beyond their temperament or attitude — I’m inspired. I want to be that kind of person, to be in His presence, to read and digest his Word, to make it part of my DNA, to walk it out – to live it out. In the end, I want my life, my music to facilitate a conversation about God and who He is.”